On a chilly night students and volunteers gathered together in the warmth of laughter, great food and the sharing of each other’s cultures. In what’s become an annual celebration at Casa Chirilagua, adult students from our Yo Hablo Ingles (YHI) English language classes gather with their volunteer teachers to celebrate Thanksgiving together. They are served food from volunteers and church staff from Restoration City Church (RCC), as well as potluck items. The menu spans from traditional American Thanksgiving foods to a some central-American dishes. Everyone leaves with a smile and a full belly.
During the celebration students practiced their English by playing a game of Thanksgiving-themed Bingo. After filling their boards with items like cooked turkey, live turkey, an orange leaf, and a green leaf, three hands went up exclaiming, “Bingo!” The winners took home the beautiful centerpieces created by a volunteer from RCC.
Gratitude was very evident in the room as students began to pass a microphone around to express their thoughts.
Giovanni began, “Today we celebrate that God is good. He gives us health, he gives us everything that we have. I’m grateful for Casa Chirilagua and all the support that they provide the students. I’m also grateful for the volunteers who put in their time every week. Nobody pays the volunteers money but they put in their time and that’s really valuable. So I am really grateful for that. I’m grateful to God for everything, for everything in our lives, because He is good.”
Many other students echoed his sentiments, such as Maya, “Good evening everyone. I want to thank God for having us here and that I have life and health…I’ve met new people and I’m learning English. I’m thankful for the teachers, I’ve learned so many things. I thank God that I have a job and that my children are healthy.“
Students expressed their gratitude in their native Spanish because that allowed them to express their hearts and thoughts most truly. However, one brave student exercised his growing English ability at the encouragement of Paola, who helps lead YHI.
As he took the mic Paola exclaimed, “In English! Yes! You can do it! C’mon!”
He valiantly responded, “Hello everybody,” and the crowd erupted in applause. He smiled and continued, “I need learn more English! [laughs] I am thankful for food, and for Casa Chirilagua. And last year my English not too good. Now it’s more very good.”
In the end it was hard for everyone to say goodbye. The students stayed after to help clean up, continuing to talk and laugh together. As one volunteer noted, “I love that everyone supports each other with clean up. I think that we all just don’t want the night to end, so this way we get to spend a few more precious minutes together.”